In birdwatching parlance, a life list is simply a list of all of the birds a person has seen in his life.

What is a Life List?

Of course, different people have different reasons for watching and keeping records of wild birds, and life lists tend to reflect these various purposes. For example, someone with only a casual interest might jot down a date and species name whenever he spots a new bird out the window or on a trip to the local zoo. A serious birder will probably keep more detailed records and count only birds that he has seen in the wild.

There are three main methods of keeping life lists:

  1. Using the checklists typically provided in field guides.
  2. Keeping track of the life list with a birdwatching journal.
  3. Entering the life list into a spreadsheet or other computer program.

Then there are the innumerable focuses a life list can have. Besides recording all of the birds that you have seen in your life, you can keep more specialized lists:

  • Annual.
  • Monthly.
  • Nesting birds only.
  • Statewide.
  • By county.
  • For a favorite state park.
  • Around your house.
  • On a trip.

Of course, each birdwatcher will want to experiment and find the method that works for him individually.

Some birders can be quite competitive with their life lists, traveling great distances to add new species. But most people just keep life lists for interest’s sake. A life list can be a great way to recall the thrill of seeing that gorgeous or uncommon bird for the very first time. Sometimes a simple check mark can become associated with a vivid mental picture of a favorite birdwatching memory.

Helpful Resource

Kansas County Checklist Project
Download a complete checklist of Kansas birds, or scroll down to see a checklist tailored to your county.